More gardens, greenspace and transit: NCC releases 50-year plan for the capital

Ottawa-Gatineau

The National Capital Commission released a new long-term vision for Ottawa-Gatineau on Tuesday, drawing praise from local business leaders for its potential to help attract tourists and skilled workers to the region.

The Plan for Canada’s Capital, 2017-2067 calls for a new national botanical gardens on the west side of the Rideau Canal, a new Sir John A. Macdonald riverfront park between LeBreton Flats and Mud Lake in Britannia, a public park overlooking Chaudière Falls, a renewal of Nepean Point and streetscape enhancements along downtown roads such as Sparks and Metcalfe streets as well as Laurier Avenue.

The ideas stem from consultations with more than 22,000 people across the country who attended town halls, completed questionnaires and submitted ideas for “milestone initiatives” over the past six years.

“You’ll feel the presence of Canadians in this plan,” NCC chief executive Mark Kristmanson told a business audience at a breakfast Tuesday morning.

Much of the 84-page document contains pledges of support for initiatives led by other levels of government or the private sector that are already underway.

These include guiding the redevelopment of LeBreton Flats, “supporting” Library and Archives Canada in its plans to create a new portrait gallery, directing federal departments, agencies and Crown corporations to locate their headquarters near rapid transit and advocating for the Prince of Wales bridge to be turned into an interprovincial transit corridor.

Rail sketch

“The mayors (of Ottawa and Gatineau) are talking more seriously now about the Prince of Wales bridge becoming a connection, which we favour,” Mr. Kristmanson told reporters after his presentation. “The NCC holds some of the lands, which would be crucial to making these connections. We’d be open to making those available under the right circumstances … We will be encouraging them to talk, encouraging a regional perspective.”

'Green capital'

With some local employers finding it tough to find skilled workers, several local business leaders said Tuesday that efforts such as those in the NCC’s plan to make Ottawa a more attractive city will help with their efforts to entice talented professionals to move to the city.

But it’s not just residents who benefit from being able to hike in Gatineau Park, spot wildlife in the Greenbelt or go biking along the Ottawa River, said Ottawa Tourism CEO Michael Crockatt.

Lookout

In a panel discussion following Mr. Kristmanson’s presentation, Mr. Crockatt said initiatives such as those outlined by the NCC also make it easy for convention delegates and leisure tourists to explore the natural features of Canada’s capital.

“There’s a brand for Ottawa to be a green capital,” he said. “Visitors can be active … It’s easy to rent and ride bicycles through the capital on specific routes throughout the community, and this will get better as the Greenbelt link is expanded.”

Mr. Crockatt also highlighted the NCC’s vision to improve public access and add amenities to the shorelines along the region’s waterways.

“We have incredible assets in this community from a waterway perspective that still have a lot of opportunities for development in terms of attracting visitors and making this a fantastic place to be,” he said.

Mr. Crockatt and Mr. Kristmanson spoke at Business Before Nine, an event jointly hosted by OBJ and the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce.

Past plans

Tuesday’s release of a 50-year plan for Canada’s capital is the latest vision for the region prepared over the last century.

The NCC calls these previous plans “demonstrably successful” in many ways. They secured the majority of industrialized waterfront land for public use, acquired a vast area in the Gatineau Hills and conserved heritage buildings in the ByWard Market, the NCC says.

However, the Crown corporation concedes planners had less foresight in other areas by, for example, segregating employment districts for federal workers, razing entire neighbourhoods and prioritizing private automobiles over other forms of transportation.

Ottawa Improvement Commission report (1903)

Landscape architect Frederick Todd was tasked with reshaping the city and foresaw a large and populous district that reflected the character of the nation and its citizens.

Holt-Bennett Plan (1915)

Among the first comprehensive urban plans in Canada, this vision proposed more formalized government precincts, reorganization of the rail lines and the creation of a new park in the Gatineau Hills.

Gréber Plan (1950)

This document proposed major new federal facilities organized into several discrete federal campuses, as well as a complete system of ring roads culminating in a series of parkways along the shores. It also called for an extensive greenbelt to contain future urban growth.

Plan for Canada's Capital (1999)

This document highlighted the symbolic role of Confederation Boulevard for the first time and emphasized the need for closer collaboration between local, regional and federal bodies.